Our Strength “Newen” is What Feeds Us and Will Give Us Our Freedom
September 6th, 2010
At the entrance of the El Manzano prison, a small woman waited patiently to enter
the prison. It would soon be noon, even though she arrived at dawn from Osorno. In
the Legal Medical Institute, some 250 metres down the road, a Mapuche father,
painfully waits for the body of his 19 year old son, Richard Ñeguey, who committed
suicide three days after Oral hearing in Cañete; both are accused as well as another
20 Mapuche community members. The small woman does not come directly from a Mapuche
community because she has worked all her life with her husband in the city. She is
Hector Llaitul’s mother, who is one of the five Mapuche Political Prisoners on
hunger strike in the prison of Concepcion. The State prosecutors are expecting
Llaitul to spend 103 years in jail, and are pushing for this sentence in court. She
states: “the one thing I will do and keep on doing is support him as long as I
live,” before hugging her son, who had just come back from weight control carried
out by prison guards. Hector has lost more than 17 kg in 52 days of fasting; only
drinking water and Mate [herbal tea]. A total of 34 Mapuche Political Prisoners are
on hunger strike since September 2nd, where 2 minors joined in the mobilization. All
of them demand a fair trial and an end to the Antiterrorist Law. On August 23rd in
El Manzano prison, the five where happy with the visits of family members and they
themselves celebrated with Mate for the visitors. Hector attended to his mother and
then came to carry the interview.
LS: What can be achieved by this action, which may be seen from the outside as an
act of desperation? I haven’t heard of other cases where the accused declare
themselves as political prisoners on hunger strike, as what happened in this case?
HL: It may seem contradictory, but we wanted to refresh ourselves to keep on
struggling. We feed ourselves from Newen, from strength. We wanted people – and not
just Mapuche Peoples – to mobilize. Plus, none of us are indispensible. Our morale
is strong as well as our consequence. It gives us much strength to know that our
people see us as their prisoners, as their Weichafe [warriors]. What we don’t want
is for people to be immobilized; the lack of conscience. We seek the end to the
Antiterrorist trials, and two strikers have already been released since the
beginning of the strike. The judges and the political elite are feeling the
pressure. If nothing would happen, the powers that be would not know of anything.
They could have a thousand prisoners throughout the entire country and nothing would
happen. But with a hunger strike, there is a national and an international effect.
We are achieving something, and we expect more achievements in trial. The
accusations will be become twisted. The one thing that will become clear is that
there are only set-ups, and our people will come out better from it, we are going to
achieve our freedom as best as we can. How many people we can set free depends on
our strength. But we are not all going to prison anymore.
LS: What analogy can be made in regards to the situation of the trapped miners?
HL: In the beginning the miners had no way of getting out of from underground. And
how can we get out of this confinement if we are trapped with two different legal
procedures, Civil and military justice simultaneously? When there is a fully fledged
compact and uniform media saying that we are violent, who can confirm otherwise? The
media is tendentious. The prosecutors say what they want and the media gives them
all the coverage. The silence they maintained on the hunger strike is because it
wasn’t in their interest to speak about the prisoners. The anonymous witnesses that
testify against us are compensated by the State, by the Prosecutor’s office, in
order for there to be less questioning when a estate lord does it directly, as in
the case of Osvaldo Carvajal, in the area of Lake Lleu-Lleu. We feel very good when
people mobilize despite this huge campaign. In the Temuco trials, they are even
going to have Colombian police, CIA agents among others as protected witnesses; this
is a trial at a Latin American and Global Scale.
LS: They have accused you of carrying out violent actions. Why have you chosen this
form of struggle?
HL: Here, there is no political instrument that can be used to struggle. We wouldn’t
be in prison if we were in a country like Venezuela. If we were there, we’d be
members of the Venezuelan parliament. In that parliament the indigenous peoples
fight with the oligarchy and with reformist sectors, in unison with the
revolutionaries. The political struggle is given by the instruments that are
available. However the Mapuche continue facing the invasion, and is under a military
dictatorship. We haven’t shaken off the occupation of our ancient territory by
various States. Domination has been historically dragging in us. We reside on
miserable lands under a legislation of occupation. The only way the State grant
access to our lands is when there are lands claims, which were conceded after the
military occupation, for a minimal part of our ancient territory. All the ancient
territory that we reclaim is considered illegal. The State has never consulted us,
not before, not now, not ever; they have resolved the issue within their material,
ideological and cultural apparatus. Our struggle seeks to construct the basis for a
national liberation struggle. We are just beginning to construct that base. That can
be done by maintaining a very coherent political and ideological maintenance of our
struggle with the demands of territory and autonomy. These demands are what
guarantee the fulfilment of the historic demands of our People. They are the
fundamental ideas for the reconstruction of our nation.
LS: How do you relate today’s struggle with the history of your People?
HL: Some historians say there was no common direction in the struggle. But what do
they say about our examples, like Pelentraro [Warrior Chief of the 1598 Mapuche
rebellion]? What he and his warriors achieved was the gathering of forces of a
people in struggle, a succession of sorts. The actions of resistance are developed
through the basis of a construction. Otherwise, there are only short term goals to
be followed, along with State genocide.
LS: And what happens when you speak in public about these struggles?
HL: In my case, I don’t like to appear in public. I like to be on the ground, in the
community. But the youth invited me, after I was released in the other trial in
2008. One of the accusations against me in this case is that I was lecturing
students at the University (La Frontera) over the struggle of the Mapuche People in
its edge of resistance, and I insist, not of a fe
verish group. All of us are
completely native. We are the product of a reality of dirt floors and alcoholic
parents. They make a leap of faith because there is conviction and dignity. All of
the prisoners are from the community, and their political struggle comes from the
LS: Do you only consider the actions of land reclamation as valid? What about the
HL: We maintain different levels of work and fronts of construction. NOT as a party,
but as a community… We have mobilization on other fronts, on the street, in the
plazas for the freedom of the Mapuche Political Prisoners. In regards to migration,
we say they should come back to the community. Those that live in the city are the
Diaspora. The only way we can integrate them back to our way of life is to live with
the Mapuche worldview, because that’s where everything comes from; it includes our
religion, our spirituality. If we don’t state it in that sense, the essence is lost.
It is part of being original peoples; otherwise, its most basic elements cannot be
sustained. Nonetheless, in our struggle every little bit helps: the support, the
writings of spray paint, or whenever the parents say to their children to dress in
their traditional clothing – that too is Resistance. It becomes into a subversive
act because it is linked to a political project of liberation. The reconstruction is
not only anti-systemic power, but it also is maintaining your way of life. It is to
awaken and to reconstruct many things; it all has an ideological aspect.
LS: How do you evaluate the coming of Piñera’s government?
HL: The Left did not reincarnate itself into the world of the oppressed to continue
struggling, after negotiated transition. They let others use take that ground. The
Left abandoned its real political project, and does not educate the people. The last
[social-democratic coalition] government,” La Concertacion,” paved the way for the
Right and cooperated with Military Justice. They didn’t reform the legal system.
Viera Gallo [ex-Chilean foreign Minister], who represented the Bachelet government
at the United Nations last year had to answer to 24 reproaches for the actions taken
against the Mapuche People. How many will Piñera have to take? The practice of
torture, death and the raids did not begin now. But it became more serious. The
Right had the control of everything; they just needed the political power. Now the
advancement of the logging/forestry and mining companies are intensifying, to
continue to take control over Mapuche territory and other peoples. The Araucanía
Plan that is being promoted by the government is like Plan Columbia for us.
LS: Where do you all stand in regards to the implementation of Settlement No. 169 on
HL: There is no political will for that to function. It’s a bluff. We can’t forget
the fact that it had been in Congress for 17 years, and just like the creation of
Land Claims process, it was created because there was a process of mobilization in
course – the reclamation of land – which brought it to the forefront. But in
practice the accord is never applied, as it states there should be consultation if
any indigenous lands are to be put at risk. The logging/forestry companies do it,
apply the theft of lands and repression. The accord is useless; it does not defend
any community. If we want to defend our territory, we know that we have to do it
ourselves, which isn’t defined by any decree. We struggle to reclaim our land, metre
LS: What do you respond to those that accuse the Mapuche of being directed from abroad?
HL: Our definition is our own, as other peoples have their own definitions. The
Bolivarian movement does not work for indigenous peoples, as the allegations of
training in Columbia are contradictory. We don’t need the conduction of anyone. We
struggle on the basis of our principles and in the history we inherited from our
ancestors, such as Lautaro. In that regard we can teach others! Sometimes it is
forgotten that our people have a great historical legacy of resistance. Besides,
historically Bolivar was responsible for the genocide and colonialism of our
peoples, as the Bolivarian project implies the destruction of our community system.
Spanish was imposed on our peoples. We cannot converge on that basis, but we unite
with them and other mobilized peoples, in regards to the liberation of humankind.
For us they are allies in struggle on our own basis. We do not recognize them in
terms of the links set out by the prosecution. We do recognize a similarity in
ideology, moral positions in relation to the struggles of other peoples.
LS: What can say about the application of the Antiterrorist Law that is now also
being applied to a section of Chilean youth as well?
HL: The Antiterrorist Law has it origin in the dictatorial era, it is an exceptional
law, a special law that in the end only seeks to annihilate the opposition of social
movements that oppose the regime. It is a law that has been applied today in the
context of annihilation and political persecution towards those who fight for
justice. We have seen its application to the Mapuche People since the [social
democratic] Concertacionista governments and now even more during the reign of the
Right, which transgresses many procedural rights and the access to a just trial. To
apply now to others, is part of the strategy to say there is no racism. We consider
the struggle to abolish the Antiterrorist Law transcendent to the Mapuche struggle.
If they apply the law to us now, sooner or later they will apply it to other social
movements that rise up in struggle for more dignified living conditions, and for a
more just and human political project. Of course they can be applied to other
groups. If this is applied to our brothers in the libertarian movement or anarchists
as the media describes them, it must be because there is anti-systemic foundation
and a compromise with certain people that bothers them, and transgresses the a State
of its kind.
Translated and Distributed By:
The Women’s Coordinating Committee Chile-Canada